With eight installments for home consoles and two for handhelds, the Mario Party games are by all means a popular spinoff series for multiple players, notable for clever board game-like areas, familiar characters of the Super Mario franchise, and (perhaps most of all) the minigames. With a four year gap between titles, it’s no surprise that Nd Cube, the series’ new developer decided to revive the series by introducing and revolutionizing many gameplay mechanics with Mario Party 9.
At first I was skeptical of many of the new features of the game, as they were very, very untraditional among Mario Party titles. For example, Mini-Stars. The main method of gameplay for the eight prequels can be summed up very easily: Get the highest amount of Stars among your opponents. If two or more people tied, whoever had more Coins was the victor. Not so in Mario Party 9. Stars and Coins are abolished, and Mini-Stars are introduced as the only currency of the game. You get Mini-Stars from everything: Playing minigames, picking them up along the path, stealing from your opponents, special events, etc. This simplifies things and, in a sense, complicates it slightly. If a foe had a huge lead over you, there would be less chance to catch up. Some events make you lose half your Mini-Stars, which, suffice to say, can be really bad. Also among new mechanics are vehicles, somewhat akin to Mario Party Advance for the GBA. The entire 2-4 player group travels around a board together, sometimes facing the same consequences, good or bad. Essentially, the game doesn’t end after a set number of turns, but when the vehicle reaches the end of the map. It might be hard to strategically screw up anyone other than the person who is immediately after you, but events always find ways to shake up the experience.
As for a story, there isn’t much. (Who plays Mario Party for the story anyway?) In Solo Mode, the evil Koopa King, Bowser, has stolen all of the Mini-Stars for the sky for whatever reason. Mario and company, being the brave astronomers they are, decide to rescue them. Not that riveting of a story, but it introduces two new playable characters: the wizard Magikoopa (named Kamek in all versions that aren’t North American) and Shy Guy, the masked mystery enemy. (Technically, there’s a third new character, a normal Koopa Troopa, but he doesn’t originate through the story.)
With 80 new minigames, you can be guaranteed to have tons of fun in minigame Free Play mode alone. Minigame premises include chopping wood, riding dolphins, surviving a giant metal block from crushing you, escaping haunted mansions, racing snowmobiles, and lots more. Special modes where players go head to head trying to climb a tree, take over a cloud, plant a garden, or find treasure add an entertaining zest to minigame competition. Certain minigames assign groups of two or three characters to defeat a single one, while others have two characters work together to defeat the notorious Bowser Jr. Unlike many previous Mario Party games, two-versus-two minigames are nonexistent. However, a new mode of minigame appears: Boss fights. Your characters duke it out with some of Bowser’s most sinister villains like King Boo, Blooper, or Chain Chomp. Some are heavy on action, while some rely on logic and a keen eye. My only beef with the minigames is that you don’t play them after every turn, but on landing on certain spaces. This means that sometimes, you can play as few as 3 or 4 a board (or fewer, on rare occasions).
All in all, the sheer variety of minigames is enough to entertain people for a long time.
I was very skeptical of Mario Party 9 at first, yes. However, upon taking an observation, I was pleasantly surprised. Hours of fun on the party boards and those enjoyable minigames will constantly keep you on your toes. The unlockable vehicles, boards and other content give motivation to keep playing as well. With the Mario Party series, you either hate it or love it. I, for one, am a huge fan. The Game Hunter gives this game a solid 4 out of 5 stars, or in this case, Mini-Stars. Party on, Nd Cube!